EXCLUSIVE: A Conversation With MeUndies

MeUndies is a new underwear player and the second startup to emerge from Science, a “technology studio” that leverages capital from the likes of ex-Myspace CEO Mike Jones to accelerate the development of new innovative concepts.  The L.A. based start-up designs, manufactures and sells their designs by way of two trending retail strategies in the underwear industry: subscription based underwear and underwear vending machines.

MeUndies defines a distinct goal: “To create a company that delivers comfort, convenience and affordability.”  They believe that there should “be an easier, less expensive way to buy essential basic apparel.” And, it seems MeUndies has indeed found a way to make quality essentials accessible: as the manufacturer, designer and retailer of their own brand, MeUndies will undercut competitors by up to 30%,

The Underwear Expert speaks with co-founders Jonathan Shokrian and Barak Diskin about their non traditional retail strategies and the future of underwear retail.

Underwear Expert: First off, why the vending machines?

Jonathan: We’re all about convenience. We thought it would be a unique, fun way to offer our product in high-end stores. We’re not interested in traditional retail strategies, so we decided to team up with the different stores to design the machine itself and make it fun and interesting. A lot of stores were wary, actually — they don’t think of vending machines as a cool, high-end machine.

Underwear Expert: How much do they cost? Do the stores themselves have to supply them?

Jonathan: No, we commission them ourselves. We buy cool, refurbished machines, fix them up to match with the store’s theme and art.

Underwear Expert: Is this a winning strategy for you? Are you planning on expanding it?

Jonathan: The big picture is placing them in hotels, but it will be only one avenue of many that we’re taking (we’re primarily an online brand.) We’re talking to hotels, getting them in rooms, talking to airports, talking about placing the machines in spots where people need a change of underwear where they may not have brought one.

Underwear Expert: How much does a pair cost?

Jonathan: It’s $18-$20 a pair from a machine, compared to $16 if you buy a one-off pair from the website. The machines take cards.

Underwear Expert: What’s your refund or return policy?

Jonathan: Our refund policy is that we believe in our brand so much that if you don’t like your underwear for whatever reason, we’ll fully refund you the money and let you keep the pair.

Underwear Expert: UndZ, a Canadian brand is doing this as well, and there have been underwear vending machines introduced in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Is this a wide-ranging trend?

Jonathan: We’ve seen some in the Dallas airport, too. Well, we’re certainly not the only ones selling underwear this way, but we’re not really impressed with our competitors’ branding. We like to think we’re bringing awareness to the model, by executing it in the best possible way. When BestBuy started selling tech through vending machines, we realized it was a great delivery system. People really liked buying things that way; it was fun. We’ll be introducing high-end socks and t-shirts fairly soon, too. So as a trend, yes, it’s certainly expanding.

Underwear Expert: Why go for these unorthodox sales strategies?

Barak: We wanted to make the mundane process of buying basics fun, and so anything we do complements that goal. When you’re buying the underwear online, we strive to deliver some of the best images and photography, and deliver someone a little bit of happiness that way too. We think it’s cool that we can buy underwear out of a vending machine.

Underwear Expert: How does it complement the subscription or membership model?

Barak: Well, it doesn’t compete with it. It functions as a branding and marketing push. Unfamiliar consumers come in and engage with us. We don’t like the traditional retail market because of the markup, and we’re trying to accomplish something else by standing out by establishing a direct relationship with customers. The online model allows direct contact, as a way to deliver a service and stay engaged.

Underwear Expert: Subscription models for underwear are being talked a lot about for underwear. Why do you think this is?

Barak: They allow direct engagement and optimal service. We actually prefer the word membership. It allows us to deliver people what they want. I’ve always found that buying underwear was a hassle because it’s a replenishment model. The ultimate goal is to have a pair being delivered constantly. Most people need some item replaced once a month, or every other month, and that’s what we deliver. We also try to reward loyal customers with price breaks.

Jonathan: As for the future, I think we’ll definitely see in the next year a lot of brands trying to mimic the model, but they might try to kind of “private label” their product. We spent the last year working with the best manufacturers, getting feedback from customers. We made tweaks based on customer feedback, and adapted the brand. So I don’t see this competition as much of a threat.


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